The question was widespread in the business community once the government started issuing stay-at-home orders due to the Coronavirus pandemic: how were companies going to keep working? Of course, it all depended on their respective industries but, overall, the answer to it was pretty much the only alternative left – to work with remote teams.
For many businesses, this was the first time they used this approach, so doing so was obviously challenging and came with lots of doubts. But if we were to pinpoint the biggest managerial concern about working with remote teams, then that would be how can companies ensure the same productivity they get with in-house teams.
As everyone that has worked with remote teams can surely attest, that’s a common (and fairly understandable) concern. However, as any company that has been working with a remote approach can tell you, those worries don’t have anything to do with reality. There are studies that say that productivity actually goes up when people work from home. And certain surveys say that practically everyone wants to work from their homes.
So, instead of seeing remote working as a temporary disruption to a normal way of doing business, maybe companies can start seeing remote working as a valid option to use from now on, even after the pandemic reaches its end. That’s especially true if they consider the available ways in which they can keep productivity up, which includes the following 3 key measures.
1. Communication Is A Necessary Foundation
It’s weird how, for a world as connected as the one we’re living in, communication is still one of the biggest challenges we have to tackle. Naturally, this also applies to business, especially those that use remote working for the first time. Think about it – teams that are used to work in the same office are accustomed to walking up to anyone to further discuss any issue at hand and even do follow-ups of digital conversations such as emails or direct messages.
When working remotely, you don’t have that possibility, which is why you have to rely on any communication tools you might have. And that brings its own set of challenges. Any company that’s just starting to work with remote teams needs to develop a robust communication strategy that allows all members to be on the loop without missing anything. In other words, businesses with remote teams need to turn communication into their cornerstone.
This doesn’t just mean using Skype, Google Meets, Zoom, or phone calls (even though those tools will be among your most trusted allies). Without proper documentation of everything you discuss with your team over those platforms, chances are you’ll be losing a lot of important information. So, it’s important to keep a tidy and organized account of everything be it through emails recording all details about meetings, through project management software like Jira, or through a team-collaboration platform like Slack.
The other thing that helps with everyday communication with remote teams is being redundant. Even if you feel like everyone already knows about a particular issue, task, or project, be sure to document it in any way you can. This “over-communication” may seem a little bit over the top, but it’s a great way to ensure everyone knows what’s going on while it also helps in developing good communication habits when working remotely.
2. Allow Some Flexibility
When working in an office, two factors combine themselves to shape routines. On one hand, the company defines its business hours, provides the facilities and infrastructure, and monitors the team’s performance. On the other hand, employees themselves organically add up to those routines. Yet, all of that is gone when you start working remotely.
It’s easy to feel lost when just starting to work from home, mainly because all work-related routines implode. This can lead to chaos on multiple levels, from employees not knowing how to balance their personal life and their professional life to managers trying to control every move from their team. Those things can be frustrating and affect productivity. That’s the reason why you need to be more flexible.
Being more flexible doesn’t mean throwing your business into complete debauchery. Rather, it’s about providing your employees with some leeway to find a new routine that proves to be efficient for them. It means that you have to be more open about potential issues that might arise (especially in the first months of working remotely), things like internet connections going down or children needing attention.
Of course, flexibility doesn’t just apply to how you see your employees but also to the everyday tasks. Since you won’t be able to control everything that happens as you might be able to do in the office, you’ll be better off if you start focusing on objectives rather than on the hours spent at work. And you have to redefine how you’ll measure the progress made in the different projects, because “spending a set amount of time” doesn’t cut it anymore.
This might lead you to an increase in meetings, to embracing a ticketing system to address issues, to changes in your overall strategy, even to the development of new KPIs and ways to measure them. Don’t panic. All of those things are good, as working remotely can only work when it follows its own set of rules.
3. Take Time To Socialize
When going to an office, you can expect to socialize in different ways in a lot of instances. From the cliché of the watercooler chat to the after office gatherings in a nearby bar, teams that work together naturally develop a certain level of engagement. When working remotely, all of those things are gone – especially during an isolation process like the one born out of the Coronavirus pandemic. Left to communicate through messengers and emails, the communication starts to dehumanize itself and the spontaneity among members begins to decrease.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Morale and engagement are key for all kinds of teams, and remote ones aren’t the exception. Even though the karaoke nights at the bar can’t be replaced technologically, you can (and totally should) encourage other socialization instances between your team members. This can include meetings whose only purpose is to talk about movies, online games, or even a virtual happy hour.
All of those things provide the necessary space for team members to stay in touch and are a reminder that there are people on the other side of your emails. This can lead to increased empathy between coworkers and even foster new kinds of relationships that strengthen bonds which, in turn, enrich everyone’s lives. In fact, having these socialization instances adds something extra to the work, which feels less like something you do for money and more about being part of something bigger.
Time To Embrace Tomorrow’s Working Model
At BairesDev, we’ve been working with remote teams from day one and we’ve grown to be one of the most thriving companies in our field. We believe that remote working is what got us there because it provided us with a flexible yet productive way of working. It allowed us to collaborate with the best talent regardless of its location, it helped us expand our culture, it boosted our productivity to new levels, and it prepared us for the more flexible working market of today.
We ran into different challenges along the way and made plenty of mistakes over the years but the experience we obtained convinced us of something – remote working is an amazing way of doing business. That’s why we want you to know that you don’t have to see it as a horrible disruption. Instead, be open to what remote collaboration can provide you, develop a new way of doing things, and see for yourself the benefits it can bring, especially regarding your productivity.
Who knows? Maybe when the pandemic is over, you might want to stick working with remote teams.